Starting the new school year can be a time of great excitement… and anxiety. Help calm your child’s fears (and your own) with these teacher-approved tips.
Meet the new teacher.
For kids, one of the biggest back-to-school fears is “Will I like my new teacher?” Breaking the ice early on is one of the best ways to calm everyone’s fears. Take advantage of your school’s open house or back-to-school night. Some teachers welcome phone calls or e-mails — another great opportunity to get to know each other before the year begins.
If personal contact with the teacher isn’t possible, try locating the teacher’s picture on a school website or in a yearbook, so your child can put a name with a face. If your child’s teacher sends a welcome letter, be sure to read the letter together.
Tour the school.
If your school hosts an open house, be sure to go. Familiarizing your child with her environment will help her avoid a nervous stomach on the first day. Together you can meet her teacher, find her desk, or explore the playground.
With an older child, you might ask him to give you a tour of the school. This will help refresh his memory and yours.
Connect with friends.
A familiar friend can make all the difference when heading back to school. You might try calling parents from last year’s class and finding out which children are in your child’s class this year. Refresh these relationships before school starts by scheduling a play date or a school carpool.
Obtain the class supply list and take a special shopping trip with your child. Having the right tools will help him feel prepared. While keeping basic needs in mind, allow for a couple of splurges like a cool notebook or a favorite-colored pen. These simple pleasures make going back to school a lot more fun.
School supply lists also provide great insight into the schoolwork ahead. Get your child excited about upcoming projects by explaining how new supplies might be used. Let him practice using supplies that he’s not used before — such as colored pencils or a protractor — so he will be comfortable using them in class.
Avoid last-minute drilling.
When it’s almost time to stop playing, give a five-minute warning. Giving clear messages to your child is very important.
Chat about today’s events and tomorrow’s plans.
While it is important to support learning throughout the summer, don’t spend the last weeks of summer vacation reviewing last year’s curriculum. All kids need some down time before the rigors of school begin. For some kids, last-minute drills can heighten anxiety, reminding them of what they’ve forgotten instead of what they remember.
Ease into the routine.
Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household. Avoid first-day-of-school mayhem by practicing your routine a few days in advance. Set the alarm clock, go through your morning rituals, and get in the car or to the bus stop on time. Routines help children feel comfortable, and establishing a solid school routine will make the first day of school go much smoother.
By Colorín Colorado
As a parent, there are many things you can do at home to help your child have a good school year. These include making sure your child gets enough sleep, getting him to school on time, and reading at home every day.
Here are ten important ways to get started!
1. Medical care
Children need regular medical checkups, immunizations, and dental care. Check with your school to see if a physical and immunizations are required before the new school year. Some medical and dental services may be available at the local clinic or your child’s school.
2. A healthy diet and exercise
Children who eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise can concentrate better during the school day. It is important that your child eats a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and has opportunities to exercise every day through a sports team, fun activity, or playtime outside.
Getting enough sleep will help your child get up on time, feel good, and be ready for a full day of learning. Children need different amounts of sleep at different ages. Ask your doctor how many hours of sleep your child needs each night.
4. Getting to school, every day and on time
It will be easier for your child to complete daily lessons, homework, and tests if he gets to school on time every day. Limit the time your child misses for family trips and activities. Contact the school immediately if your child will be absent.
Help your child set a regular time and place for homework. Choose a time that works well for your family’s schedule. Find a place that is quiet and has good lighting. Make sure your child has supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, and a dictionary. Ask your child to show you her finished homework each night so that you can see what she is learning and confirm that she is doing all of her assignments.
6. Television, video game, and computer time
Limit the time your child spends watching TV, playing video games, and using the computer. When possible, do these activities together, and look for educational programs and games. Help your child understand that he should never give out personal information on the computer or talks to strangers online.
7. Talking about school together
Ask your child to tell you about the school day. Ask her what she learned, and how she felt during the day. Listen carefully to her answers, and help her think of ways to solve any problems she might be having in her schoolwork or in the classroom.
Set aside time to read with your child each day. You can make reading a part of daily routines by reading stories at bedtime and keeping lots of books and magazines in the house.
9. The library
Help your child get to know the library and what you can find there, including books, audio books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Libraries also offer homework resources and a quiet place for students to work.
10. Learning at home
Help your child learn at home by sharing activities together, singing, talking, and telling stories. Visit educational places such as museums, the zoo, the park, or a historical monument. Find out what your child’s interests are, and look for activities and books that are connected to that interest.
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By Angela of Fluid Pudding
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Sadly, when you’ve lived somewhere for years and years (and years), it’s sometimes difficult to view your city as a tourist in order to avoid the “There’s nothing to do here!” vibe. I’m happy to say that my interest in St. Louis was recharged about five years ago after we welcomed our daughter Meredith into the family. Seriously? This town is simply bubbling with events and attractions for kids of any age. Here are some of the things we love to do.
1. Pick up a sandwich from Amighetti’s on the Hill (they have a great kids menu, too!), enjoy a picnic lunch in Forest Park, and spend the afternoon at the St. Louis Zoo! Admission is free!
2. Travel back to the good old days and enjoy a chocolate phosphate and a chili dog from Crown Candy.
3. Check out an Omnimax show at the St. Louis Science Center. While you’re there, take a few hours to explore the special exhibits–including the space show at the Planetarium!
4. Let your imagination go wild at the City Museum. The shorties will especially love the recently expanded Toddler Town, and because the museum is open until one in the morning on weekends, the adults can come back in the evening and play big people style.
5. Get out on a rainy day and explore the St. Louis Art Museum. Many family programs are offered during the spring and summer months!
6. Get your exercise by strolling around 100+ acres of outdoor art at Laumeier Sculpture Park. (Art camps are offered during the summer for kids ages 4-15.)
7. Put on your big goofy foam fingers and head to Busch Stadium for a Cardinals game! (Be sure to stop by Gus’s Pretzels on the way to the stadium! They’ve been twisting pretzels for nearly 100 years!)
8. Head over to Fitz’s Root Beer for an amazingly fun lunch. If you get there early enough, you can request a table near the bottling line. That will keep the kids hypnotized until the food is delivered! (Added bonus: The kid meals are delivered in a mini car!)
9. Grab your eye patches and parrots and head out to the St. Louis Pirate Festival! There are merchants aplenty and lots of swashbuckling!
10. If my grandma was still with us, she would to tell you to pack up the kids and head to Hodak’s for lunch. I think you’ll agree that they serve the best chicken in St. Louis, and have been doing so for nearly 50 years.
11. Take a tram ride through Grant’s Farm, where you’ll see free roaming bison, antelope, and zebra! While there, be sure to visit the Budweiser Clydesdale Stables, where up to 15 foals are born each year.
12. If you’re itching for a theme park, Six Flags is surprisingly clean! If it’s particularly hot, you might want to walk over to Hurricane Harbor and enjoy one of the country’s largest wave pools.
13. If, like me, you’re in love with the smell of old books, you need to make the trip to the Greater St. Louis Book Fair. Located in the West County Mall parking lot, the fair opens for four days in the spring. During that time, over a million books, CDs, and DVDs are available, and the funds raised provide services to promote education and literacy in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.
14. Take some time to study the St. Louis Walk of Fame while you’re strolling around the University City Loop. You’ll be surprised at how many amazing men and women have called St. Louis their home!
15. For an especially unique tour of the city, grab your bike at midnight and join in on the Moonlight Ramble. If your kids aren’t up for the twenty mile tour, a ten mile tour is available!
16. Learn all about the history of St. Louis at the Missouri History Museum. Be sure to check the schedule during the spring and summer months to see which local bands are performing (for free!) during the museum’s Twilight Tuesdays concert series!
17. Head on down to the riverfront and travel to the top of the Gateway Arch! Helicopter rides are available for those who want an even more elevated view of the city.
18. Learn a bit about The Poet of Childhood at the Eugene Field House and St. Louis Toy Museum.
19. Explore four floors of hands-on activities at The Magic House St. Louis Children’s Museum. Be sure to take a ride on the three story slide!
20. See a show at the Fox Theater. If the show schedule doesn’t interest you, take a tour of the building!
21. Explore the marketplace at St. Louis Union Station. While you’re there, enjoy the entertainment at The Fudgery and ride a paddle boat around the lake!
22. Take a short drive down to Kimmswick. While strolling around this lovely town, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the many antique shops and historic buildings. (Be sure to eat a slice of pie or two at the famous Blue Owl!) Check out the Kimmswick Event Schedule. It seems like there’s always something going on. (My favorite is the Apple Butter Festival. I’m a sucker for apple butter. On wheat toast. Good God.)
23. Bundle up, head downtown, and enjoy the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade.
24. The Missouri Botanical Garden is a beautiful place to visit. Be sure to pack a picnic basket during the summer and attend one of their free Wednesday night concerts.
25. Are you looking for something safe to do with your family on New Years Eve? Plan on attending First Night Saint Louis–the visual and performing art festival that has been helping families ring in the new year since 1992!
26. Welcome the holiday season by driving through the Way of Lights. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you might want to take a ride on a camel! (If not, you can always pet a donkey at the petting zoo!) This light exhibit has been entertaining my family since I was a kid. (And that was a long time ago.)
27. The Great Forest Park Balloon Race is one of the most amazing things you’ll see. Be sure to visit Forest Park for the balloon glow held the evening before the race. (Seriously. Check out this amazing photo of the glow.)
28. You know you’ve always wanted to go to a Renn Faire. Why not attend the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Faire? It gets bigger and better every year. The merchant list alone is very impressive!
29. You’re not a true St. Louisan unless you’ve stood in line for a Ted Drewes frozen custard. (If you’re one of those people who never know what to order, get the Dutchman Delight Concrete. Chocolate, butterscotch, pecans… You’ll be thanking me for this recommendation.)
30. Check out Purina Farms, where visitors can milk a cow, watch a canine competition, or play in a hay loft!
31. St. Louis is proud to have its own one-ring European circus! Circus Flora made St. Louis its home in 1987, and the big top shows take place in June.
32. The St. Louis Jazz and Heritage Festival is one of my family’s favorite events. Good food, great music, and a musical petting zoo for the kids. Who could ask for anything more?
33. Are you in the mood for some exploration? You can pan for gold, dig for fossils, or take a riverboat ride while visiting Meramec Caverns.
34. The Wolf Sanctuary is an amazing place dedicated to the preservation of rare and endangered wolves. Be sure to call ahead to take the 1/2 mile walking tour, as the sanctuary closes during the breeding season.
35. See a show at America’s largest and oldest outdoor theater–The Muny. If you’re not in the mood to pay for premium seats, the theater offers 1,500 free seats in the last nine rows of the theater. (The free seats are available on a first come, first served basis, so get there early!)
36. If water parks are your thing, you’re going to love Raging Rivers. (Personally, I’m a big fan of the Endless River.)
37. Along with their spectacular concert program, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra offers several casual Family Concerts throughout the year, free community events, and amazing holiday concerts. There’s something for everyone at the symphony!
38. Enjoy the music, dancing, and presentations at the St. Louis Earth Day Festival.
39. If you find yourself in St. Louis on Independence Day, you need to spend some time at Fair St. Louis! So much food! So much music! An incredible fireworks display at the Gateway Arch!
40. Eat yourself silly at the International Horseradish Festival. The kids will enjoy the games, and you might enjoy participating in the Bloody Mary contest!
41. Buy some fresh produce at the oldest farmer’s market west of the Mississippi–the Soulard Farmer’s Market. If the peaches are good enough for Bill Clinton…
42. If a quiet stroll is what you need, the Butterfly House is perfect. The 8,000 square foot Conservatory Garden was designed to ensure a natural and safe habitat for nearly 60 species of butterfly!
43. During the summer months, be sure to scope out one of the many Frontyard Features. Free family-oriented movies under the stars! Perfect!
44. Although I’m not a big sports fan, I’ve always loved attending a St. Louis Blues hockey game. Rowdy crowd, arena food, and ice fights!
45. The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival provides professional and free Shakespeare performances outdoors! If you arrive early to the show, you’ll be entertained by fire eating clowns, jugglers, and various other strolling performers.
46. Visit an ancient Indian civilization at Cahokia Mounds! Public tours are available in June, July, and August.
47. There’s nothing quite like a good tailgate party before a St. Louis Rams game!
48. The Museum of Transportation showcases steam, diesel, and electric locomotives, as well as automobiles, streetcars, and aircraft. Their Creation Station is a big hit with kids ages five and under.
49. Pick peaches, strawberries, blackberries, apples, or pumpkins at one of Eckert’s Country Farms. You can even cut your own Christmas tree at Eckert’s during the holiday season!
50. Explore St. Louis by riding a riverboat on the Mississippi River! The Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher Riverboats offer many different types of cruises, including a sightseeing cruise your entire family will enjoy!
By Barbara Rowley
I was sitting with my daughter Anna at an outdoor concert. We’d walked eight blocks in the hot sun from the parking lot, skipped naptime and stood on long lines twice—once to pay the $20 entry, then for our $5 ice cream cones. And as I sat with Anna on my lap, thankful the loud music was covering her tired, cranky cries, I tried to remember why I’d thought taking a 3-year-old to a concert was such a great idea.
As moms, every day we see that kids love doing small, simple things. But we often can’t resist doing the big, elaborate ones, despite their cost and hassle. And though we know they probably won’t remember a trip to, say, the circus, we want the memory. That’s okay every now and then, but most of the time you’d be better off thinking a whole lot smaller. Some ideas to get you started:
The day they started to dig the hole for the foundation of a church in our neighborhood was the beginning of my family’s education about the differences between an excavator and a bulldozer (which is what we used to call every large yellow piece of equipment). It was also the day it started to dawn on me how many free and exciting family outings were literally sitting there waiting for us.
the perfect pull-over
Some of the best places to go are right on the side of the road. You can spend a good hour pulled over at a construction site watching gigantic machines dig, dump and lift. And if you’ve got train lovers—but no trains to ride—park near a crossing to watch them roll by (ask at a business near the tracks what time the trains pass through). When you’ve watched at one crossing, scoot over to the next one and watch again. Sitting on your car near an airport to watch the airplanes fly overhead is another exciting outing. In between take-offs and landings, you can watch the contrails and the shapes in the clouds.
ask for a back-door tour
After grabbing a bag of bagels with Anna in tow, I headed, uncharacteristically, out the back door of the shop, which gave us a view of the bagel-making machine. We were both transfixed—and watched for a good 15 minutes. To turn your Saturday-morning errands into outings to remember, just ask for a closer look (or find a safe viewing point) at any number of destinations. A few good ones: coin-sorting and dollar-counting machines at the bank, automated photo-processing equipment and any sort of mechanized food preparation, from tortillas to doughnuts.
pretty and public
Drive to a beautiful garden, a mural-or graffiti-covered wall, or a farm or fruit stand. Toddlers and preschoolers love nothing better than the smell, touch and sight of nature’s bounty, and the beauty of a fountain or even a somewhat tacky art display can be exciting to them. Ponds and streams—where you can also amuse yourselves tossing leaves and dandelions and watching them float away—all offer possibilities.
From the moment they can figure out who has more cookies on their plate and who got to open the door first, little kids are natural competitors and absolute maniacs about measurement. Since most tots love a good search, race, or competition, you’ll be able to invent all kinds of easy outings.
the seasonal search
My dad used to take me and my four siblings to seek out the first signs of spring, an activity that got us all on our hands and knees at the local park looking for green. You can also search for the longest icicle in winter, the most colorful leaf in the fall, or try my family’s year-round favorite: finding heart-shaped rocks for natural Valentines.
who’s got the best…?
My favorite babysitter not only worked early on Saturday mornings (so my husband and I could enjoy one sleep-in a week), she also got the kids out of the house quickly with an ongoing search for the best weekend breakfast in town. At just 4 and 8, Anna and Kate practically ran out of the house, homemade survey sheets in hand, to test out the pancakes, hot chocolate and restaurant-provided amusements at every diner within driving distance. You can decide on the best ice cream or pizza. Or go with something nonedible, like the best echo in the area (under bridges or overpasses and in pedestrian tunnels), coolest playground castle or fastest slide in your town.
go on a scavenger hunt
Look for the longest bridge, highest building, tallest tree or the biggest letter A on a sign. Bring a camera and record images of your kids in front of their finds. Or give the search a concrete reward: A friend of mine’s dad used to take her and her siblings on drives with the sole mission of finding double X’s on license plates—and they got a dollar reward for each X in a row. You could just as easily offer less or even nonmonetary compensation, since the literal payout doesn’t matter. My friend still remembers the drives with her dad 35 years later.
More fun than a theme park
Can’t stand the roller coaster—or even the carousel? Don’t sweat it. Amusement parks’ amusements are often lost on young kids. For tots who are usually strapped in a car seat behind you, with only a view of the back of your head, sitting next to you in any mode of transportation is their definition of an amusing and exciting ride.
take a quick trip
If your preschooler is constantly singing about the wheels on the bus—but has never had the opportunity to ride one—she’ll find actually getting on and seeing the wipers go swish, swish, swish and hearing the horn go beep, beep, beep a real treat, even if you have no place to go and just ride round-trip. Ditto for trains and ferries.
head to the mall…but not to shop
If you get there as soon as it opens, before the crowds arrive, your kids can jump from one colored tile to another, slide and pretend to skate in their socks on slick floors, take a ride in a glass elevator and sing in the echo of an underground parking garage. (This indoor outing is especially great for blustery or rainy days.)
milk the park for everything it’s got
Look for poles to twirl around, logs to balance on and hills to roll down. Even a simple park bench can be a spaceship, boat or covered wagon—and you’ll likely have the perfect ending to any outing: a child who’s ready for a nice, long nap.
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By Annika Peick
As temperatures outside drop, it’s time to bring some warmth back into your home. Use these tips and tricks to learn the best ways to cozy up for winter.
Warm Up Windows
Block out chilly winter drafts by layering on window treatments. Thick, striped draperies add volume to floral-pattern Roman shades in this pretty breakfast nook. Replace the thick curtains with sheer draperies during warmer months, or simply remove the extra treatments altogether until temperatures plunge again.
Cozy Reading Nook
A window seat offers the perfect perch for everything from an afternoon nap to a day spent lost in a good book. Keep your window seats cozy by bulking them up with fluffy seat cushions and pillows. If space permits, use under-seat storage to house blankets for the season.
As temperatures dip lower, your focus will naturally shift toward the hearth. Give your fireplace a quick makeover to ensure it’s ready for all that extra attention. A large mirror above the mantel instantly elevates this fireplace to focal point status, while an ornate screen adds both style and function below.
Scents of the Season
Although decor and accessories can go a long way toward cozying up your home, it’s important to fill it with the smells of the season, too. A fragrant bowl of potpourri — in a wintry scent such as cinnamon, pine needles, or evergreen — can do the trick and will fill your home with seasonal cheer. Display the arrangement prominently on a mantel or in a casual dining room tablescape.
Friday, November 21, 2014 until Friday, January 2, 2015
National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows
Focusing on the birth of Jesus, this unique celebration of Christmas features a mile-and-a-half drive with over one million lights, electro-art displays, and life-size biblical statues taking visitors on a scriptural Journey to Bethlehem. Tree and wreath displays, an interactive children’s village, camel rides and an indoor laser show add to the festivities. Activities 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. nightly. On Family Night Tuesdays you can experience the lights aboard a horse-drawn wagon and enjoy discounts on activities. Rides start at 6:00 p.m. with rides every 1/2 hour until 9:00 p.m. Activities, restaurant & gift shop closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & New Year’s Day. The outdoor light display will remain on.
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There’s no one dollar amount that’s appropriate for all kids. The amount you decide on should be sufficient to provide your child with some extra money so he’ll learn how to handle it. There’s no educational benefit in setting an allowance at an amount at which it’s already decided how it will be spent before it’s even received.
Many factors go into fixing an allowance. The four main ones are listed here:
- Your child’s age. Obviously, the older your child, the bigger the allowance (up to a certain point, at which your child may become too old for an allowance).
- Your family income. Only you know how much your family can afford to allocate to allowances.
- Where you live. Maybe keeping up with the Joneses isn’t high on your list of priorities and you frequently tell your child, “I don’t care that Jimmy Jones has this or does that.” But, realistically, the neighborhood you live in can certainly influence how much allowance you give your child. What your child’s best friend receives may not be a deciding factor, but it’s a factor nonetheless.
- What the allowance is supposed to cover. If you expect your teenager to buy all his own clothing from his allowance, then the dollars paid to him each week must be sufficient to allow for this extensive purchase. If you supplement an allowance with spending money, then a less generous allowance may be in order.
Your Child’s Age
Young children should get a smaller allowance than older children. While some families give the same allowance to all their kids even though they’re of different ages, this isn’t the usual approach. Most give more money as to their older kids than younger ones.
Using a rule of thumb to set an allowance is only a starting point. An allowance of $1 per week may be okay for a 10-year-old, but $15 may not be enough for a 15-year-old. You need to make some realistic judgments about what the allowance will buy.
As your child gets older, you’ll have to adjust the allowance. Part of this adjustment is simply because of added age. Because your child is older, she must pay for more things and needs more money to do it. For example, being at college means that your child has to pay for many of the things you used to buy when she was at home, such as toiletries and the newspaper. Of course, inflation also puts pressure on you to increase allowances so that your child’s buying power isn’t eroded.
What if your children are of different ages? Generally, you’ll want to give them an allowance appropriate to their age. If they’re close in age—say, two years or less apart—maybe you’ll give the same amount. A child may complain that it’s not fair that her older brother gets more than she does. Fairness doesn’t mean that everything has to be equal, though: It’s fair to base allowance on several factors, with age being an important one.
Your Family Income
Your head and your heart may want to pay a generous allowance, but your family’s limited resources may dictate otherwise. You have to be realistic about what you can afford to pay as an allowance.
If you can’t afford to pay an allowance or set it at the amount you really think appropriate, be honest about it. Explain that family finances prevent you from giving your child the amount you’d prefer.
You can bet that the kids who live in the real Beverly Hills 90210 don’t receive the same allowances as the kids in most inner-cities. You may feel that this is really just another way of saying that a family’s income should influence the allowance. But there’s more at work: There’s peer pressure to get the same allowance that the other kids do.
Of course, you can take your neighborhood into account when fixing your child’s allowance, or you might decide that this element shouldn’t be factored in. It’s your call.
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By Paul Richard
Introducing Kids to Money
Money gives people — both young and old — decision-making opportunities. Educating, motivating, and empowering children to become regular savers and investors will enable them to keep more of the money they earn and do more with the money they spend. Everyday spending decisions can have a far more negative impact on children’s financial futures than any investment decisions they may ever make. Here are 15 simple ways to help educate children about personal finance and managing money:
- As soon as children can count, introduce them to money. Take an active role in providing them with information. Observation and repetition are two important ways children learn.
- Communicate with children as they grow about your values concerning money — how to save it, how to make it grow, and most importantly, how to spend it wisely.
- Help children learn the differences between needs, wants, and wishes. This will prepare them for making good spending decisions in the future.
- Setting goals is fundamental to learning the value of money and saving. Young or old, people rarely reach goals they haven’t set. Nearly every toy or other item children ask their parents to buy them can become the object of a goal-setting session. Such goal-setting helps children learn to become responsible for themselves.
- Introduce children to the value of saving versus spending. Explain and demonstrate the concept of earning interest income on savings. Consider paying interest on money children save at home; children can help calculate the interest and see how fast money accumulates through the power of compound interest. Later on, they also will realize that the quickest way to a good credit rating is a history of regular, successful savings. Some parents even offer to match what children save on their own.
Allowance and Spending Decisions
- When giving children an allowance, give them the money in denominations that encourage saving. If the amount is $5, give them 5-1-dollar bills and encourage that at least one dollar be set aside in savings. (Saving $5 a week at 6 percent interest compounded quarterly will total about $266 after a year, $1,503 after 5 years, and $3,527 after 10 years!)
- Take children to a credit union or bank to open their own savings accounts. Beginning the regular savings habit early is one of the keys to savings success. Remember, don’t refuse them when they want to withdraw a portion of their savings for a purchase–This may discourage them from saving at all. You can also introduce children to U.S. savings bonds. Bonds are still a good value, costing one-half their face value and earning interest that in some instances will be tax-free if used for a college education. Perhaps more importantly, when given as a gift, bonds will not be spent immediately, reinforcing saving and goal-setting lessons.
- Keeping good records of money saved, invested, or spent is another important skill young people must learn. To make it easy, use 12 envelopes, 1 for each month, with a larger envelope to hold all the envelopes for the year. Establish this system for each child. Encourage children to place receipts from all purchases in the envelopes and keep notes on what they do with their money.
- Use regular shopping trips as opportunities to teach children the value of money. Going to the grocery store is often a child’s first spending experience. About a third of our take-home pay is spent on grocery and household items. Spending smarter at the grocery store (using coupons, shopping sales, comparing unit prices) can save more than $1,800 a year for a family of four. To help young people understand this lesson, demonstrate how to plan economical meals, avoid waste, and use leftovers efficiently. When you take children to other kinds of stores, explain how to plan purchases in advance and make unit-price comparisons. Show them how to check for value, quality, repairability, warranty, and other consumer concerns. Spending money can be fun and very productive when spending is well-planned. Unplanned spending, as a rule, usually results in 20-30 percent of our money being wasted because we obtain poor value with our purchases.
- Allow young people to make spending decisions. Whether good or poor, they will learn from their spending choices. You can then initiate an open discussion of spending pros and cons before more spending takes place. Encourage them to use common sense when buying. This means doing research before making major purchases, waiting for the right time to buy, and using the “spending-by-choice” technique. This technique involves selecting at least three other things the money could be spent on setting aside money for one of the items, and then making a choice of which item to purchase.
- Show children how to evaluate TV, radio, and print ads for products. Will a product really perform and do what the commercials say? Is a price offered truly a sale price? Are alternative products available that will do a better job, perhaps for less cost, or offer better value? Remind them that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
- Alert children to the dangers of borrowing and paying interest. If you charge interest on small loans you make to them, they will learn quickly how expensive it is to rent someone else’s money for a specified period of time. For instance, paying for a $499 TV over 18 months at $31.85 a month at 18.8 percent interest means the buyer really pays about $575.
- When using a credit card at a restaurant, take the opportunity to teach children about how credit cards work. Explain to children how to verify the charges, how to calculate the tip, and how to guard against credit card fraud.
- Be cautious about making credit cards available to young people, even when they are entering college. Credit cards have a message: “spend!” Some students report using the cards for cash advances and also to meet everyday needs, instead of for emergencies (as originally planned). Many of those same students find themselves having to cut back on classes to fit in part-time jobs just to pay for their credit card purchases.
- Establish a regular schedule for family discussions about finances. This is especially helpful to younger children–it can be the time when they tote up their savings and receive interest. Other discussion topics should include the difference between cash, checks, and credit cards; wise spending habits; how to avoid the use of credit; and the advantages of saving and investment growth. With teenagers, it’s also useful to discuss what’s happening with the national and local economies, how to economize at home, and alternatives to spending money. All of this information will be important as they take on more responsibility for their own financial well-being.
By Molly Thompson, Demand Media
Dr. Seuss’ beloved Cat in the Hat was a master at doing all sorts of activities and questionable tricks indoors to entertain the kids on a miserable winter day when it was “too cold to play.” You don’t have to go to those extremes, but you can banish your kids’ winter blues with crafts, games or acting out imaginary scenarios. Set up a puzzle on the dining room table and work together to complete it. Drape a couple sheets over a card table and some chairs to make a tent for indoor camping, or have a sleepover and let your youngsters stay up late to watch family movies together. From cooking to crafts, the possibilities are endless to keep the kids happy on a cold day indoors.
Gather up card or board games the kids haven’t played in awhile and have a family game night, or let them invite a few friends over for an afternoon of games. If basic board games are too staid for your youngsters, throw in a game like Twister that lets them get physically involved and silly at the same time. Set up mini-competitions to keep things interesting — offer token prizes for the winners — such as best two out of three in a checkers games or highest score in rummy.
Vacation at Home
Put your kids’ imaginations to work and help them create a beach getaway indoors. Spread out beach towels or blankets on the floor, play island music or beach songs, and make some hot dogs and lemonade. Let kids put on their bathing suits and sun glasses, and maybe even a bit of sunscreen to evoke the smells and feelings of summer. Change a tall floor lamp into “the sun” by covering the lampshade with yellow cellophane or replacing the regular light bulb with a yellow one. Play with beach balls and hula hoops and make seashell-themed crafts to top off your beach vacation.
Lift your kids’ winter blues by doing crafts or decorating activities. Create a touch of spring by making brightly colored flowers, butterflies and caterpillars from craft foam and pipe cleaners. Give each child a plain terra cotta pot and some paints to make a one-of-a-kind planter for their foam and pipe cleaner flowers. Use the time to add new decor touches to the kids’ rooms: Give each a plain wooden picture frame to decorate with markers, paints, stickers or by gluing on faux gems, shells or buttons. Help them put a favorite drawing or picture in their frames and hang their masterpieces.
Turn the kitchen into a mock classroom and teach the kids how to make cookies or a favorite dinner recipe. Help them pick out which recipe to try and gather the necessary ingredients. Let the older kids do the measuring and pouring while the younger children have fun — and get a little messy — doing the mixing. Make several different dishes, if time — and your patience — permits. When the food is cooking, let the kids make miniature menus, listing the items they’ve prepared, and put them by each family member’s place at the dinner table. Enjoy the results of their efforts at a satisfying family lunch or dinner.
http://www.StLouisByGina.com 636-229-8746 The Gina Koerner Team